Friday 19 January 2018

Fine Gael TD's fiancée fails in High Court bid to have references to her blacked out in Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT)

Sarah Comiskey and Fine Gael TD Sean Conlan
Sarah Comiskey and Fine Gael TD Sean Conlan

Tim Healy

THE fiancée of Fine Gael TD Sean Conlan has failed in a High Court bid to have references to her blacked out in an Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) finding that the politician breached his former secretary’s employments rights.

Sarah Comiskey sought court orders redacting certain parts of the EAT's determination, issued last February, including that she and the Deputy were the cause of work-related stress to his former secretarial assistant Cathy Shevlin.

In its determination, the EAT found Mr Conlan made a “litany of breaches” of his former Ms Shevlin's employment rights and threatened her in a "wholly inappropriate manner”.

It also ordered the Cavan-Monaghan TD to pay €25,000 to Ms Shevlin, who brought unfair dismissal case against the TD after she was dismissed in 2013.  He had claimed Mrs Shevlin was dismissed for misconduct.

Arising out of the EAT's determination, Ms Comiskey, who is also a barrister, brought judicial review proceedings against the EAT.

Ms Comiskey had argued the EAT had stated in its determination that the cause of Mrs Shevlin's work related stress "lay with both Mr Conlan and SC".

She claimed the EAT did not have jurisdiction to make such a determination.

It was also argued Ms Comiskey was never a party to the proceedings before the EAT and she was not given any notice of the allegation against her. She was not given a chance to reply to any such purported allegation, it was claimed.

Ms Comiskey was never before the EAT when it was hearing Mrs Shevlin's case nor was she called to give evidence.

The tribunal had made a finding of fact that damaged her good name as well as her professional reputation, and her capacity to practise as a barrister.

She also claimed that while she was not named in the EAT's determination, and was only referred to as  by initials, it had wrongly and improperly made her readily identifiable in the determination.

Her counsel said despite the fact she was referred to by  her initials she was also referred to as Deputy Sean Conlan's fiancee and Parliamentary secretary in the determination.

Ms Comiskey and the TD have been the subject of reports in the media, and she was easily identifiable, it was claimed.

It was submitted the purpose of the Ms Comiskey's proceedings was not to alter the EAT's determination, but was aimed at having two paragraphs in the finding where Ms Comiskey is mentioned redacted.

Both Ms Shevlin and Mr Conlan were notice parties to the High Court proceedings.

Following the conclusion of submissions from Ms Comiskey's lawyers, Ms Justice O'Malley dismissed the case.

The judge found Ms Comiskey had no standing (locus standii) in law to bring the claim.

It was up to the employer in the matter determined by the EAT to either appeal or bring judicial review proceedings, the judge said.

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